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Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education Hardcover – June 14, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Smith picks up the conversation started in Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me. Spurred by the pain surrounding recent shootings of young black males, he dissects white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, class-based elitism, self-hatred, violence, and untreated mental illness. If it sounds like a lot, it is, but don't be dissuaded; Smith is in control and delivers the message in short chapters, each with personal revelations and current cultural references. Young people will relate to his examination of Kanye West, LeBron James, Dave Chappelle, and Frank Ocean. Smith's honesty is raw and often funny ("I visited the campus once before deciding Hampton would be it, based on my highly sophisticated decision-making rationale: it just felt right, ya know?"), and his punches land squarely. Teens can't help but ponder the inequality of our nation's policies while also examining their effects on personal life. Smith challenges readers to ask the questions that will allow us to restructure, rephrase, and reconsider what we are ashamed of. What if we shifted our language to "invite in" all that is different from us? What if we no longer placed the burden of bravery on the marginalized, the people who try to fit into a hostile world? "Change is not inevitable, and building a world of true justice and equality will not happen if we don't commit to building those new selves." Smith will continue to be a voice for our nation in years to come. VERDICT This is a commanding read that deserves a place in all libraries. It will make a great book group discussion, especially when paired with Coates's memoir.—Pamela Schembri, Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY
An ambitious blend of autobiography and cultural criticism.” New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
An audacious debut book This is a must-read book for the generations.” Washington Post
[Mychal Denzel Smith] is a voice entering the ring with fire. With raw urgency, intelligence and blistering candor, [Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching] tells the story of a young man's political education.”New Republic
[Mychal Denzel Smith] provides perspective into the complexity of blackness that's commonly lost in discussions about race this memoir is both groundbreaking and saddening. It might be the first of its kind: a book that offers a comprehensive look into the genesis of black millennial lives through the eyes of a young black man.” Daren W. Jackson, Chicago Tribune
"Here is the deeply thought accounting of the contemporary black experience by one of our foremost writers and thinkers. A scintillating, rewarding read.”The Root
'Invisible Man' is a philosophical work .[Mychal Denzel Smith's] straightforward explanation of his experience growing up as a black man in America is worth our urgent attention.” Michael Kleber-Diggs, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
wonderful While Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching may not have the answers, its attempt to define the undefined something buzzing about blackness feels like catching lightning in a bottle.” Atlantic.com
engaging and brilliant.” Truthout
What makes 'Invisible Man, Got the Whole Watching' so revolutionary is Smith's brutal honesty Unlike many of his predecessors, [Smith] gives a raw recount of a young black man's life through the framework of black feminism and cultural criticism.” Huda Hassan, National Post
a superbly thoughtful memoir.” Buzzfeed
A useful blueprint for radical and intersectional politics in a country where a black child can grow up to be president but where living while black is still dangerous.”Kirkus Reviews
Invisible Man, Got The Whole World Watching is quintessentially Mychal Denzel Smith: brilliant, honest, courageous, hilarious, and transparent. Most importantly, it is one of the best and most authentic examples of black male feminist cultural criticism that we have ever seen. Although he draws from his own experience, Mychal avoids the self-importance and navel gazing that compromise most memoirs of this genre. Instead, he offers a narrative that is at once unique and ordinary, reflective and instructive. This book should be read by anyone trying to understand what it means to be black and male and committed to this beautiful struggle for freedom.”
Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond
If I kept a diary of my deepest thoughts, plaguing insecurities and varied triumphsthis would be it. It is a cover to cover conversation with the reader on the complexity of (hopefully) growing to be a Black Man in the American Empire. Mychal's coming of age book, his first, is a masterful meld of personal reflection, political analysis and honest insight that yearns to be felt, must be read and demands to be seen.”
umi selah, organizer and co-founder, the dream defenders
Decades ago, Toni Cade Bambara wrote, The purpose of a writer is to make revolution irresistible.' Mychal Denzel Smith, in addition to crafting a genius piece of art that swims through politics and prose, has created one of the first books of my lifetime that makes structural and interpersonal revolution irresistible. Unlike many 20th and 21st century memoirs written by black men, Smith convinces readers that any conversation or movement towards black liberation that doesn't also reckon with heteropatriarchy is brittle at best, and likely destructive. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching is the first book of my life that I need to read with my mother, my grandmother and my children. Mychal Denzel Smith has done it. He has written a potential revolution.”
Kiese Laymon, author of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
It has become routine to witness black boys meeting violent ends. Captured on police dash cams or bystander smart phones we watch black boys die as videos replay hourly on cable news and are clicked feverishly on YouTube. It is still rare to watch black boys grow--to hear them laugh or cry, to declare their passions and to reason carefully. This is part of why Smith's book is so affirming, necessary, even delightful despite its brutality and angst. Mychal Denzel Smith answers the pressing but unasked question, what would happen if all those black boys felled by bullets had a chance to make mistakes, read books, fall in love, hone skills, take new paths, and grow up? The story is fully and unflinchingly Mychal's and because Mychal is so distinctively self-aware, so intellectually invested, and emotionally raw, it cannot simply stand in as a generic tale for all the lost black boys-- except that they too would have had stories entirely their own to tell if only they had had a chance to write them. We owe it to them and more importantly to ourselves to read Mychal's book and render visible what we would rather forget.”
Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University
Mychal Denzel Smith takes us on a political and cultural journey of young black manhood that unapologetically examines, parallels, and weighs the influence of Obama and LeBron, Kanye and Trayvon, Malcolm X and Chapelle on his own becoming in the 21st century. By centering the black boy he once was, the boy many refuse to see, we face him head-on. Smith trusts us to not only see him in all his vulnerability, bravado, and incisiveness, but to know him. This is Smith's selfless offering.”
Janet Mock, New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness
"With this book, Mychal Denzel Smith solidifies his place as one of the most important voices of his generation. A gifted storyteller with sharp political analysis, he straddles the personal and political with aplomb. This is a book everyone should read.”
Jessica Valenti, Guardian US columnist and author of Sex Object: A Memoir
Top customer reviews
I especially appreciated his thoughts/analyzations of our brilliant president and how he remains above the fray (being condescending to AA and somehow making racism our fault or intimating that we can somehow fix it). To use MDS’s words ‘… by every measure, Obama … represents the most “respectable” black man this country has ever produced. And what has his respectability won him but disrespect?’ AMEN honey.
So many things resonated with me in this book. MDS reflected on how our president and folk in general think that black fathers being in the home is the panacea for keeping our boys on the straight and narrow (so to speak) …’…a father won’t protect black boys from America.’ MDS was brave to include and share and reflect on his relationship with his own father (who was doing the best he could) and I’m sure a lot of boys and girls could relate. To heal we need to talk more about what hurts otherwise the cycle repeats.
MDS reports on our president’s pie in the sky initiative (that’s what I call it) for mentoring AA boys – Brother’s Keeper. Yeah, right. I agree with MDS – ‘It was insulting, but right in line with his philosophy’. Can you say “legislation/bill/policy” Mr. POTUS – who claims to be president of all people. What about us?
I recommended this book to my millennial son who is the same age as MDS and who I have the most enlightening and energetic conversations with. Thank you Mychal.
n Books. Kindle Edition.
I'm glad that I did.
Mychal Denzel Smith wrote a collective autobiography. This is a memoir of a generation -- my generation. While Mychal tells his own story, the larger narrative is that of Bush to Obama, Katrina to Jena, Trayvon to Michael.
As far as memoirs go, the dominance in the national scene makes his own personal story a little less dim. This is not the story of how his father treated his mother; this is not the story of him growing up with his brother. This is not the story of what it feels like for a man to have his heart broken. Or the story of poverty and hardship.
And that's okay.
This is an honest critique of President Obama as a Black man. This is an honest look at masculinity norms within the Black community and in America as a whole. This is an honest look a depression and mental health amongst Black folks.
And thus, I love this memoir for being just what it is.
I can tell that Mychal is the type of guy I would want to be friends with. We read all the same books. In fact, if a Black man wanted to find his way through this jungle, if he wanted to discover what being a great Black man is, I would recommend him read every single text (and album) referenced in this book, including those written by Black women.
I am proud that the Black men in my generation are beginning to examine themselves for possible misogyny and possible homophobia. It makes me believe in Black men even more.
This is a young Black man's education. I think I might buy this book for my brother and a few of my Black male friends.
And for Black women bibliophiles like myself, for Black women who love to read and love to support Black men. This is an excellent book to read, and read again. Mychal Denzel Smith seems like an excellent man to stand behind.